The Big Data (Amazon) Center ‘Deception’

As the year ended, Senator Matt Dolan’s New Year’s Resolution appears to be his commitment to re-introduce his wind turbine setback legislation as fast as he can in 2019.  Speaking to the statehouse news service, “Sen. Dolan said he plans to continue working to better inform his colleagues about the issue, describing it as an “education process.”   That would otherwise be known as a “disinformation” campaign and will require State Senators and Representatives in the NW quadrant of Ohio to be effective spokespersons skilled at countering the fake news.  By way of example, Sen. Bob Hackett of Madison County is adamant that there are no setbacks in any state bordering Ohio that are longer than Ohio’s.  Because he has been misled, Hackett intends to help Sen. Dolan in the 133rd General Assembly as a co-sponsor of a setback bill.  

The Senate will return to session to start the 133rd General Assembly on Monday, Jan. 7. The Senate’s calendar calls for members to be back in Columbus for a full session after that on January 30. The committee hearing process is set to begin on Tuesday, Feb. 5.  The House has yet to release its session schedule for the new year.

In addition to setback legislation, the Senate is likely to consider a ZEN bill which provides a Zero Emissions Nuclear energy program to bail out First Energy.  Not surprisingly, this idea is vigorously opposed by left-wing groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists who think support for nuclear energy is a way to block clean/renewable energy.   Whatever the outcome, there is no way some wind farms in NW Ohio can replace the jobs lost or devastating economic dislocation brought about by the closing of nuclear facilities. Nuclear facilities employee MANY people and provide HIGH paying jobs….UNLIKE BigWind.

One of principal arguments for wind and solar development put forward by politicians is the need to have renewable energy available for the new tech economy and, in particular, fast growing data centers. We decided to look into this a little deeper and were surprised to find that Amazon Web Services does not support that view. In fact, their much touted contract to buy the power generated by EverPower’s Scioto Ridge (aka Hardin Wind) in Hardin and parts of Logan County was quietly ripped up in 2017.

In a December 14, 2018 press report from The Information, a “senior AWS executive told colleagues inside the company that renewable energy projects are too costly and don’t help it win business.”  The article goes on to say that data center operators purchase wind for “the public relations benefits that come from being good corporate citizens and also to lock in long-term power supply contracts.  In a moment of candor, Amazon admits renewables are too costly and they have not made any wind purchases in over two years since they walked away from EverPower’s Scioto Ridge.  CONFIRMATION OF OUR MESSAGE FOR YEARS!!

Greenpeace, Sierra and other environmental activists are going after Amazon to force them into achieving 100% renewable power by 2020.  That is a tall order.  Amazon currently stands at 50%+ renewable.  It is sickening that the charade of renewable energy being able to affordably and reliably power intensive energy users is allowed to warp reasoned energy policy.  It is worse that politicians like Senator Dolan play a part in this charade.

In the meantime, earlier this month Ohio Montauk Innovations LLC, a Google data center affiliate, received a set of incentives from the State of Ohio for a $600 million data center in New Albany, a high income suburb of Columbus. The project is intended to create $2.5 million in payroll.  The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 100 percent, 15-year data center sales tax exemption, though it has the option to be renewed for up to 40 years through October 30, 2058.  That agreement would be worth $43.5 million over the life of the tax credit, which it can claim on sales and use taxes associated with data center equipment purchases at the site. 

Approximately one mile from the new Google data center, Facebook is building a $750 million data center.  A recent look at national data center development by Data Center Dynamics explains that “the American Midwest has become a region of choice for colocation and data center investments, offering a cost-effective and reliable alternative to many densely populated coastal regions. Also, being centrally located between both coasts affords an abundance of network connectivity and affordable power, it’s pretty easy to understand why this region continues to develop. “   

Given the above, we can say once again that the “emperor has no clothes”.   Data Centers aren’t waiting on reduced wind turbine setbacks or renewable energy mandates in Ohio to build.   But data centers  do need affordable energy.   If they are forced to buy Ohio renewables by environmental activists and politicians who want to look ‘green,’  that high-cost energy would need to be made cheaper by federal PTC subsidies, county Payments-in-Lieu-of Tax (PILOT), and stolen easements across non-participating properties through setbacks measured from homes.   Otherwise, data centers can buy cheaper renewables from windier states.  They could also buy nuclear energy which eco-activists oppose despite it being clean energy.   And then there is always natural gas! Or clean coal!

An important article in this issue speaks to “energy realism” as demonstrated by the United States at the recent climate conference in Poland.  “There are reasonable nations who are willing to confront the fundamental financial and technological realities of today’s energy landscape. By hosting a side panel at the climate talks focusing on how nuclear energy and technology to burn fossil fuels cleanly can contribute to achieving emissions goals, the U.S. has positioned itself firmly as the leader of the latter.”

 “The Trump administration’s willingness to shake off pressure from other developed countries to focus exclusively on renewable energy fits into the policy of energy realism which has characterized Rick Perry’s tenure at the U.S. Energy Department. Secretary Perry laid out his vision for American energy policy in March at the CERA Week energy conference in Houston, emphasizing that “we don’t have to choose between growing our economy and caring for our environment. By embracing innovation over regulation, we can benefit both.” 



sPower has opened an office in downtown Tiffin to promote its Seneca Wind project.    A Seneca County resident pens an excellent Letter to the Editor on why wind developments do not belong in Seneca County.

In Lancaster County, Nebraska, local zoning for noise was changed at the request of NextEra.  The newly approved rules set a 50-decibel upper limit around the clock for participating property owners. There is no change in the county noise rules for nonparticipating landowners.  It was noted that most of the participating landowners do not live in the project area and will be unaffected by the change.  

In Pennsylvania, a township zoning board denied an application by Atlantic Wind to build a wind facility. “The decision was met with applause and cheers from township residents, whom religiously attended zoning hearings to make their opposition to the project clear. Among their primary concerns were water quality, noise and sight disturbances form the turbines, its close proximity to the proposed PennEast Pipeline and the potential harm the turbines could inflict on birds and bats.”

 Apex sold its second project in Illinois to Liberty Power, a unit of Canadian Algonquin Power.  Upon completion, the Sugar Creek project will then be sold to Atlantica Yield.  It’s all about the money!  It appears that the Apex model is to sell projects, raise money and develop more.  They may not be a long term partner in any community.   In South Dakota, Apex sold the 151MW Dakota Range III wind project to French independent power producer Engie. 

BP has also sold three wind developments.  “The deal, whose financial terms were not disclosed, underscores the churn taking place in the US wind market as the reduction of the federal wind tax credit and growing cost-competitiveness of wind energy brings in new types of investors, including many deep-pocketed asset managers and pension funds.  It also highlights the move to repower or upgrade projects across the 90GW US wind fleet, as projects built in the market’s early years begin to show their age.”  Vestas will fulfill the orders for the upgrade.  A Vestas executive remarked that “With the exponential advancements in wind technology over the last decade, the turbines of today barely resemble the turbines of yesterday,” says Chris Brown, president of Vestas’ sales and service division in the US and Canada.”   This makes the case for full OPSB review of any amendments to projects that were previously approved.

CleanTechnica, a left-wing renewable advocate raves about the momentum in wind development as though it will replace coal. They also tout its (albeit subsidized) price competitiveness.

Finally, Ohio has moved into the top five for recoverable shale natural gas reserves in the United States.  Data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the state saw a 24.5 percent increase in proved shale gas reserves from 2016 to 2017, bringing it to 25.6 trillion cubic feet. That moves Ohio past Oklahoma and behind only Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia and Louisiana.  We say – if you’ve got it, flaunt it!…

Monday, December 24, 2018

Senate Sponsor Vows to Continue Efforts to Revise Wind Setbacks in Next General Assembly


Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said he hasn’t given up on revising Ohio’s wind turbine setback laws despite legislative inaction this session.


Although the House and Senate are expected to return to wrap up final business this week, Sen. Dolan’s attempts to gain caucus support for his proposal to loosen setbacks (SB 239) seems to have fallen on deaf ears.


Sen. Dolan says he doesn’t expect any last-minute amendment to accomplish his goal during lame duck. The setbacks were controversially increased in 2014 when the House amended a separate bill (HB483, 130th General Assembly) hours before its passage, increasing restrictions in a way wind supporters say stifled the industry.


“I’m disappointed that we didn’t even get hearings on the bill in practically the last year,” Sen. Dolan said in an interview. “I’ll bring it right back up.”


His proposal would have increased the setback to 1.2 times the blade’s length – up from the current 1.1 times – while at the same time requiring the minimum distance from the nearest blade to be measured from the nearest residential structure rather than the nearest property line. The net impact of those changes would shorten the required setback.


Sen. Dolan said the crux of the proposal will likely remain the same when he reintroduces it next year.


“I drove up to northwest Ohio and met with a lot of folks up there so there are some minor changes I could make as to the process and we could monkey a little with the distance too but it’s the same concept,” he said.

Democrats too are likely to renew their own efforts on setbacks. Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) and Sen. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) also authored measures to revise setbacks this year, although with a Republican supermajority in both chambers it was Sen. Dolan’s bill – and its predecessor from former Sen. Cliff Hite – that received the most consideration.


Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) continues to say that a “significant portion” of his caucus believes the current setbacks are too restrictive.


But the House, which inserted the original amendment, has been more reluctant and fought hard against Senate-proposed revisions during the last budget. They’ve argued lowering the threshold would place homeowners at risk of being hit by ice or blades in the case of a failure.


Sen. Dolan said he plans to continue working to better inform his colleagues about the issue, describing it as an “education process.”


“On a macro level we need to make sure when we say we’re an all the above energy state we truly are so that on a micro level those that wish to invest in alternative energy know Ohio’s a safe place to invest, that those who want to purchase their power from alternative energy know Ohio will produce it for them,” Sen. Dolan said.


“So, it’s a bill that looks toward tomorrow more than anything,” he continued. “What worries me is if we dig our heels in in allowing new development – not only energy – it sends a message to other industries too that anything new, anything cutting edge, anything a little bit controversial Ohio’s going to shrink from? No. Ohio’s got to work to make sure we’re welcoming that type of innovation. That’s why it’s so important to me.”


Business leaders have also increasingly pressed lawmakers to act on the issue. Most recently, a coalition of Ohio corporations urged policymakers to adopt a more consistent approach to energy policy, including revising the setbacks.


Meanwhile, a group of Paulding County farmers last month filed a lawsuit in common pleas court against the state alleging the 2014 amendment violated the single-subject provisions of the Ohio Constitution.